Tuesday, January 25, 2005

TODAY THE NEW YORK TIMES AND LOS ANGELES TIMES report on additional allegations of torture revealed by Pentagon documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. The torture took place at Adhamiya Palace (or Ademeyah, in the LA Times's spelling), one of Saddam Hussein's former homes, which the U.S. military converted to a prison after Hussein was overthrown. The atrocities committed against Iraqi civilians at Adhamiyah include burning prisoners with cigarettes, threatening them with attack dogs, applying electric shocks to genitals, sodomizing prisoners with items such as wooden sticks and soda bottles, killing a man and throwing his body on top of his living sister who was also in the prison, and sexual humiliation. In one particularly horrifying incident described in the New York Times piece, interrogators slammed a wooden stick into a detainee's rectum, pinched his nose while pouring water down his throat, and administered electric shocks to his genitals.

This is just a small sampling of the torture that occurred at Adhamiyah: the documents the Pentagon handed over to the ACLU numbered over 4,000 pages.

What's also interesting is that the acts of torture at Adhamiyah were committed, not by ordinary soldiers or prison guards, as at Abu Ghraib, but by U.S. Special Forces.

Military spokespeople claim that all "credible" allegations are investigated, any guilty parties are punished, and the system in general is "thorough and fair." The New York Times article also notes that out of 50 cases that were investigated, all but a handful were dismissed for "lack of evidence."

What this reminds me of is nothing so much as the trials in the South during and before the civil rights era when all-white juries acquitted white defendants who had committed atrocities against blacks, like beating, lynching, and torturing. There was never enough evidence in those cases, either.

So how is this kind of behavior serving to present the United States as a model of democracy, the rule of law, and freedom?

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